(4) Lit Search and Reference Management Aids/Tips

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Below is a list of  books, websites, and tips on how to manage your references FROM DAY ONE. The list Includes ONLY what this blog’s co-authors consider to be the most helpful information on the matter they encountered. In other words, this is what helped/helps the co-authors successfully manage their references, no small thing at all.

Visitors, please do share as well!: If you have relevant tips/aids to share, please augment this list via posting into the comment box below (at the bottom of this page). Thank you for sharing your hard-won wisdom and knowledge. You are a blessing!


Books, Websites, and/or Tips That Contributed Greatly to at Least One Blog Co-Author’s Ability to Start and Stay Organized

Software and/or Website Applications (Updated January 10, 2014)

Mendeley (for web backup and for deep searching and impermanent annotation) to Qiqqa (details and links to videos made by others below) to Citavi (for quote-excerpting, interactive note-taking, emergent outlining, and ridiculously amazing cite-as-you write and auto-generation of the bibliography as you cite). Zotero is a popular option as well, so I include it below.


Affords the DEEP search of your PDF collection. Some people like to do annotations and note-taking here. Warning: Last I checked, you can’t get PDFs out of Mendely WITH THE ANNOTATIONS AND HIGHLIGHTS.

Qiqqa (pronounced “Quicker”)


Qiqqa’s developer has improved Qiqqa DRAMATICALLY since its early stages. In my opinion, using Qiqqa for beginning dealings with the literature can really make a difference. I prefer Qiqqa for . . .

  • Doing background reading.
  • Identifying and sequestering the collection of literature to cite without drowning in the literature.
  • Doing interactive reading and “big picture” note-taking, tagging, and/or keywording of sources.

At the moment, I still prefer Citavi for quote-excerpting, citing-while-writing (via the Citavi Word Add-in), and auto-generation of the bibliography as you cite.

Some Qiqqa videos shared by others:

  1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtdicOm60pI
  2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttg0B1RFuaw
  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6A8C0b03PAQ
  4. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MqeYNXNwrg


Everyone is different, but for me, Citavi is indispensable for quote-excerpting, emergent outlining, citation and bibliography creation in MS Word, and more. This means I find it better for LATER handling of sources (Qiqqa is best, in my opinion, for early handling of and engagement with sources). Here is a PDF showing Citavi’s role in my workflow. Export your emergent Citavi outline as a mind map, hone it and add detail, then import it back into Citavi. Attach quotes, paraphrases, and notes in Citavi onto your honed, detailed outline. Open MS Word, load Citavi from within, and DRAFT! AWESOME! Please peruse my blog for evolving posts and videos on my usage of Citavi.

NOTE: Citavi’s online manual is good, and Citavi’s developers provide great user support.

PDF import into Zotero is ridiculously seamless and easy. It is web browser embedded, so it’s literally “right there” on whatever Internet-connected computer available. Contents are exportable to MANY, MANY programs.


NOTE: Please click on the book icon to reach this book on Amazon.

  1. At the moment, the Jesson et al. text is the ONE resource I have found that actually demystifies literature reviewing. This means that for some of us, It’s a must-have. It is the “entry point” for students, in my opinion. Jesson and colleagues DEMYSTIFY the entire process via defining precisely what a literature review is and does, categorizing the various TYPES and FUNCTIONS of literature reviews, and explaining the relative merits, costs, and benefits of the types to choose from. Contains how-to’s and what-not-to’s. Addresses just about EVERYTHING except: discussion of the ins-and-outs of evaluating empirical articles in the various methodology-specific ways that matter (e.g. there are different criteria for evaluating a case study versus an experimental study. See the my notes below on the Girden text, which contains such information but may have other deficiencies)
  2. I personally believe that every graduate student should read very early on Critical Reading and Writing for Postgraduates by Wallace and Wray. If you click on the book image below, the link will take you to the Sage web site for the book, where you can read the reviews, read the first chapter, look at and download forms for free, etc. It’s not so much about the forms: You might prefer to use a literature review matrix instead of or in addition to the forms. And, the first chapter is not where the “magic” is. My mention of this is really about how the rest of the book contains an incredible education about what graduate level reading and writing are, what they do for you, how they are connected, and how to do them well. Many, clear and quite educational examples are provided. I obtained this book after having been in graduate school for a while, and after reading it I couldn’t believe that I’d been in graduate school without the knowledge base that Critical Reading and Writing provides. CriticalReadingAndWritingforPostgraduats_Cover
  3. The Galvan resource is valuable for: (1) its workbook format that makes it “iterate-through-able” and (2) its explanation of a simple-to-replicate, step-by-step method for conducting keyword searches of databases and journals. Discusses the details of refining keyword searches when necessary and the details of real-time DOCUMENTATION of your searches that actually prepares you to discuss (write up) your search method in your paper. This is a “let’s-get-her-done” type of text.
  4. In my opinion, the Fink text is great to read once the Jesson et al. text has been read FIRST. For instance, the Fink text contains great qualitative data abstraction forms, which are mentioned in the Jesson et al. text. The Fink text has the feeling of being a “Okay-let’s-do-some-more-with-just-some-of-this” type of follow-up to the Jessen et al. text. But you need the Jessen et al. text if you need lit reviewing DEMYSTIFIED: The Fink text does not DEMYSTIFY like the Jessen at al. text does. Nothing yet I’ve encountered does.
  5. Girden’s text is poorly rated and hardly rated on Amazon. However, in it, Girden does something incredibly valuable: She provides (the differing) criteria for evaluating the various types of empirical studies you will encounter in your search. I have not found this information anywhere else (perhaps I’m just missing something!), and this information matters: Critically evaluating a case study is DIFFERENT from evaluating a meta-analysis. If there are any other resources that explain and list out the various DIFFERENTIAL criteria for evaluating  empirical studies according to the specific methodology the empirical study employed, inquiring minds want to know! Please post it via the comments or send me an email! It would be GREATLY appreciated. 
  6. Lastly, I couldn’t decide where on this list to place the Chris Hart resource. It could have been first: It is a seminal work, VERY meaty (dense), and helps the reader to understand just what it takes to elevate a literature review from mediocrity (i.e something that is hardly more than an annotated bibliography or summary) to a master’s level and then also a doctorate level high, high-quality literature review. While it does contain a substantial amount of practical knowledge (how to do the literature search to a PhD level of quality, how to analyze and synthesize and argument to a PhD level of quality, etc.), a major result of reading through this text is TACIT understanding of what makes a graduate-level and professional literature review graduate-level and professional.

Tips (Pitfalls to Avoid, Actions to Take, Strategies to Use)

  1. NOTE: This list is under continual construction, as intended. Please check back frequently! Thank you, and happy writing!


  1. Web Site Link to Video Series and Posts: Working with Academic Literature by 3 Month Thesis’s James Hayton
  2. Web Site: Literature Review HQ
  3. Software for literature reviewing:
    1. CAQDAS programs, programs for computer-assisted qualitative data analysis, are more and more being used for managing and performing literature reviews. I prefer the CAQDAS program MAXQDA, but many other good ones are available.
    2. I feel that Qiqqa and Mendeley are wonderful for storage, organization, deep searching, and first-pass reading of the literature.
    3. I have seen no program exceed the Adobe + Citavi pairing’s functionality for annotating, quote-excerpting, and note-taking.
    4. I give honorable mention to Docear: It is excellent for quote-extraction when paired with a PDF viewer. However, at the present time I use Docear for concept map making and retain Citavi for quote-extraction: I am more organized in Citavi than in Docear, and so are my quotes, notes, paraphrases, thoughts, images, etc.


A word of encouragement to all, especially for the (momentarily) weary:

There are people right now praying for your success in your endeavors to design, conduct, and write-up the results of a workable, sound study! Understand that you can get there, no matter what your feelings are doing at any given moment.

So stay the course. Close your eyes and just visualize the victory — stapling that final, finished version of this section/paper, and then running your hands over the top page of it in satisfied celebration.

Proceed, understanding that your research is important: It enhances a conversation that is important.

So please don’t forget to remind yourself: If you give your best day by day by day, then by definition there is NOTHING more that you can be doing. You’ve done you’re BEST and that is ALL that you can ever offer. Good deal!

The really helpful reflection: Giving your best allows you to trust in TWO things: growth and time: Giving your best causes you to grow, and the more you grow, the better your best will be and the more it will effect your success. So at this moment, you can psychically rest and know that this particular piece of the work will be done just then: When. It’s. Done. To reiterate: The key is to be able to know in your heart: “I have been genuine in my intention and effort to work both smartly and effectively at this, so regardless of how long it takes, the truth is . . . it can’t be done until it’s done. Giving my best each day means time is on my side..”

BEST wishes!

Your Dedicated Team of Blog Co-Authors

2 thoughts on “(4) Lit Search and Reference Management Aids/Tips

  1. I have a tip. I just discovered a WONDERFUL thing to keep all your references organized. It also allows you to share whatever references you have (along with their pdf’s if you have them) with anyone you want. That way, you can collaborate on a large lit review project if you wanted to. The software is called Mendeley Desktop. IT’S FREE! And it’s super powerful. Check it out.

    • Thanks for mentioning Mendeley, Jason. I recently discovered it as well.

      Mendeley simply cannot be OVERSOLD: It syncs (backs up) to the web, communicates with Zotero, allows for PDF annotation and tagging . . .

      You can attach notes and comments to each PDF . . .

      You can create a “Watch folder” on your computer, drag PDFs to the Watch folder, and then later tell Mendeley to import them . . .

      You can drop a PDF into Mendeley and Mendeley will search for the bibliographical data.

      It holds just about all my PDFs now (only exception are PDFs are printed during my first days of school when I had no system of organization in place and was just printing).

      Last thing: Using Mendeley in conjunction with Citavi??? FORMIDABLE! I’ll eventually add all this to the appropriate page here at the blog.

      Again, thanks for posting, Jason. Post-docs rock!

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